Art history is a broad intellectual discipline that engages in problems of historical analysis and the interpretation of culture. As students progress through the major, they learn techniques of formal analysis, become familiar with historical relationships between art objects and society, study patterns of patronage, and absorb methods for interpreting the meaning of paintings, sculptures, and architecture. In the course of their studies, art history majors develop their research abilities and writing skills.   

Because the art history program provides a strong liberal arts background and stresses the development of critical visual thinking, close reading, and academic writing, course work prepares students for graduate work in the humanities, professional degrees in law and business, and careers in museums and the art world. 

Why Study at Iowa

Iowa was one of the first universities in the nation to unite studio art and art history in one school. The School of Art and Art History continues to offer both programs, reflecting its philosophy that artists benefit from the study of artistic traditions, historians learn from personal experience with the creation of art, and teachers need a firm foundation in both. The school also offers a BA in Art.

Iowa also pioneered the concept of artist as teacher. As an art or art history major, you’ll work with faculty members who have national and international reputations and whose art and publications are included in collections all over the world.

At Iowa, you’ll find yourself surrounded by art. You’ll encounter sculptures everywhere on campus, and you may study in university buildings designed by well-known architects, present and past. You’re sure to visit the Iowa Memorial Union, where you’ll see UI Museum of Art exhibits and countless works by university artists, including your professors.

Course Work

The BA in art history stresses the development of critical thinking skills. It involves historical analysis and the interpretation of culture, providing a broad background in the humanities. The program is designed to prepare students for graduate work in art history or other fields.

As you study, you’ll look at the historical relationships between art objects and society; learn techniques of formal analysis and methods for interpreting the meaning of paintings, sculptures, and buildings; and examine patterns of patronage. You’ll also develop writing and research skills.

Course work includes:

  • Two courses in Western art and culture
  • A course in African or Asian art
  • Undergraduate art history seminar
  • Eight additional art history courses
  • Writing About the Visual Arts
  • Basic Drawing
  • One course in a studio art program: ceramics, drawing, jewelry and metal arts, painting, printmaking, sculpture, design fundamentals

See Art and Art History in the UI General Catalog to learn more about this degree and graduating with honors.

Minor in Art History

See Art and Art History in the UI General Catalog for more information.    

Admission Requirements

Art history majors need to meet the requirements for admission to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.

Admission Requirements Tabs

Student Opportunities

In addition to more than 600 Student Organizations, Iowa students choose from multiple Study Abroad Programs and Undergraduate Research Opportunities.

Faculty, Facilities, and Resources

Art Building West opened in 2006 only to be flooded in 2008. After extensive renovation, the building reopened for classes in January 2012. This extraordinary facility was designed by New York architect Steven Holl and has received numerous architectural awards. 

Steven Holl Architects collaborated with BNIM Architects to design the stunning Visual Arts Building, which opened in fall 2016. This building, adjacent to Art Building West, replaces the 1935 Art Building, which was heavily damaged during a flood of the University of Iowa campus in June 2008.

The Art Library houses 100,000 volumes, an outstanding collection of periodicals, and an extensive microfilm and microfiche archive. 

The school's Office of Visual Materials contains a rapidly growing collection of 325,000 slides; 30,000 digital images; 350,000 35mm slides; 30,000 mounted photographs; and a video collection. 


Our Pomerantz Career Center offers multiple resources to help students find internships and jobs.

Many art and art history graduates pursue careers that match their degree specializations, such as commercial or graphic designer, conservation or museum curator or administrator, art educator, public artist, or community art center coordinator or instructor.

Others go on to graduate study or enjoy success in areas such as art therapy, art appraisal, restoration, architecture, theater design, medical illustration, studio art, or disciplines outside of art.


The Office of Admissions and the Office of Student Financial Aid are great resources for students seeking scholarships.

Application Process

Application Process Tabs

Apply to the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.


Art History (BA)
Art History
Teaching Licensure
Honors Courses
Four-Year Graduation Plan